Sunday, April 10, 2011

Dee Alpert, we will miss you!

UPDATE:  Memorial Service for Dee will be held Sunday, May 1 at 2:00 pm at:
Williams Memorial Residence
720 West End Avenue (between 95th St. and 96th St.)
New York City, NY.
If you plan on attending, please RSVP to or call 718- 852-3528. If you cannot attend but would like to send your remembrance of Dee to be shared with others , please email them to Leslie Packer at admin[at] 
For more info, check out Leslie's blog.

More remembrances of Dee at the WSJ, Edweek, Gotham Schools, and on the Tourette Syndrome blog. Her reach was wide indeed. If anyone knows a good home for her cats, please email her son at

On Saturday night, parents, teachers, and other members of the NYC Ed list serve received the sad news that Dee Alpert, the Special Education muckraker, columnist for and a valued member of our community, had suddenly passed away. See below note from her friend Jo Anne Simon. Here is a 2007 interview with Dee, detailing how she became involved with the issue of students with disabilities and the failure of the school system to adequately address their needs.

Yet Dee had immense learning about all sorts of issues in addition to special education, which she generously shared with our subscribers. She was always the first to report on the agenda of the all-powerful NY Board of Regents (which she pointed out would be posted just days before their meetings) and the first with news and analysis of eye-opening audits. Click here for a sampling of her messages to our list. See also the comments about Dee on this special education advocacy website.
After hearing the news last night, emotional responses started flowing forth from members. I myself am distraught; I learned so much from Dee. She was a fount of information, devoted to painstaking analysis and a passion for uncovering the truth and holding accountable those in power. Our NYC ed list will seem empty without her.
As mentioned below, her son can be reached at; we will post news about a memorial service as soon as it becomes available. Please leave a comment below, if you knew Dee and would like to share your memories of her.– Leonie Haimson
Dear friends and colleagues:

I write with a heavy heart about sad news. My friend and our special education muckraker, Dee Alpert, has passed away. According to her son, Michael, a neighbor found her yesterday afternoon. Michael called me around 6. He has called some of her closer friends since then, but I know that many people knew Dee through varying list serves and her muckraker email list and so I am helping him get the word out. I know Dee was on several list servs that I wasn't. Please help by informing folks that you know would want to know.

According to the medical examiner, the cause of death was a cerebral aneurysm. Mike has indicated that she will be cremated. He plans to hold a memorial service of some sort in the coming weeks, although there are no firm plans for that yet. Mike can be reached at

Jo Anne Simon, P.C.

Dear Michael,

I was shocked and saddened to learn of your mother's death. I always admired her fierce integrity, her keen intellect, and her great love for children. I know how proud and devoted she was to her own children.

My condolences, Diane Ravitch

My deepest condolences and warmest thoughts. The children I serve lost a powerful and passionate advocate in Dee. Michael, please do let us know if there is a group or charity we might make a donation to in her name, I am sure many would find comfort in memorializing your mother by, in some small way, continuing her courageous works.
In sympathy, Julie Cavanagh, Special Education Teacher
New to this fight, I have been consistently amazed by Dee's vast knowledge, intellectual prowess, application of logic, but most of all her deep and palpable passion for children with special needs of all sorts. Not knowing me at all, she took time out of her life recently to communicate with me off-line about my son.
What an enormous loss for her family, and for us - parents, teachers and students alike.
Tory Frye (D6 parent)
Dee combined incredible passion with a huge knowledge base and an amazing attention to detail. Always holding those in power accountable, she was our Mencken.
She will be missed.
noah e gotbaum, CEC 3 President

I never met Dee and only had a few conversations with her but her depth of knowledge and her analysis of the issues (no matter whether you agreed or disagreed with her), along with a no-holds bar approach, made an impression on everyone on this listserve. Her no-nonsense approach and her ability to zero in on the essence of an issue was unparalleled along with her knowledge of institutional historical context. One particular area of Dee's expertise was the corrupt state education department - and if you didn't start out thinking they were corrupt, it didn't take Dee long to convince you. I used to forward some of her posts to a contact at the DOE and the comment on hearing the news was, "Sorry to hear this sad news-This was a brilliant woman."

I was about to send her some information as a follow-up to the DiNapoli report on dropouts and I know she would have taken that ball and ran with it. (Remember it was Dee who persistently kept raising questions about why that report was delayed.) There are so few voices fighting the ed deformers and Dee will be sorely missed by The Resistance.

Norm Scott, Education Notes
I am very sad to learn of Dee's passing. We never met, but I always enjoyed what she had to say on this listserv and looked forward to her posts.

Sigh. My condolences to her family and close friends.

Respectfully, Wilma de Soto, Philadelphia ESL teacher
While I never met Dee, I read every one of her posts on this listserv and imagined her to be an incredibly astute, caring person. The comments tonight confirmed it for me.
Justin Wedes, education activist
My condolences to the family.
Deborah Prince, PTA President, Clara Barton High School
Maria Dapontes-Dougherty, Queens parent leader
My condolences. I did not always agree with what she wrote, but I always read what she had to say.

Sad news indeed.

Jonathan Halabi, NYC teacher and blogger
Dear Michael Appell,
We in the education advocacy community are so heartbroken to hear of the death of your mother, who was such a vital presence for us. Is there something we can do to remember her? Please let us know, and hold our thoughts for her close to your heart.
With best wishes, Ann Kjellberg, public school parent, District 2
I am very sorry to hear this. Although we sometimes disagreed, she was obviously passionate and dedicated to the idea of public education. My sincere sympathies to her family.
Beth Bernett, NYC parent and PTA president
In memory of Dee...

"There must be those among whom we can sit down and weep and still be counted as warriors....[from "Sources" by Adrienne Rich, 1983]

Dee was, indeed, a warrior (especially on behalf of children with disabilities and their families) and I am grateful to have learned much and been challenged so much by her.

Patricia Connelly, NYC parent and special education advocate


Rita Solnet said...

Dear Mike,

I began corresponding with your courageous mother this year as issues arose in my state. She was focused, driven, and determined to expose the wrongs and right them. She made a huge difference and contribution to this world. And she spoke of her family with so much love and pride. I am so sorry for your tremendous and sudden loss. With heartfelt condolences,
Rita M. Solnet

Anonymous said...

Very sad and I wrote to Michael...Dee was quite a source and I enjoyed speaking with her...we shared a lot of "history" of life in NYC and public educational issues...
She was at Science when I was at Stuyvesant too... :)

Best, Neal

Neal H. Hurwitz
Executive Director

zulma villalba said...

Dear Michael,

I can't begin to tell you how saddened our community of educators are feeling. I admired Dee Albert's intelligence and knowledge of all the ongoing education issues. Her ability to bring to the fore the glaring truth of what education should be is indisputable. She will be sorely missed. I send to you and the family my heartfelt condolences.

james boutin said...

I never met her, but she shared her knowledge with me in a few emails. Never did I learn so much from an email correspondance.

Leslie E. Packer, PhD said...

I'm one of Dee's friends. Thank you for your blog entry and all of the comments of support and appreciation for Dee.

I had blogged about Dee on my blog yesterday at

Some of us who have known Dee for a long time are sharing our reminiscences there with others who knew her but never actually met her in person.

Please feel free to also join in our tribute and memories there.

Shino said...

Dear Mike,
I am writing to express my deepest sympathy to you and your family.

I only knew Dee from the NYC Education News listserve. Unfortunately I never had the chance to meet her in person. I admired her dedication and her no-nonsense insight. She was a woman who spoke her mind. She had such vast knowledge of public education, particularly special education. She will be deeply missed. I will miss reading her posts.

Please know that my thoughts are with you.

Shino Tanikawa

Unknown said...

Just found your sad announcement via a slightly dated unrelated Google Alert.. Had a couple of opportunities to do some one-on-one technadvocacy with her related to the Net and advocating for children with disabilities a couple of years ago.. VERY SMART LADY who knew what she wanted and how she was going to get it.. Her Voice will be missed in my own inbox..

Will pass along your post to the couple of lists I crossed paths with her on.. Condolences to the many people I know she touched with her own determination on behalf of others..

Cyber hugs to everyone..

Cindy Sue
Talking Rock